Silent are the Bells Chapter Fifteen: Unexpected Trouble
written by Sugarberry
“This has been a splendid day!” Brietta sighed as she and Dorian were on their way back to Whitehall. They had spent an enjoyable afternoon with Clara and Edward after which Dorian treated them all to an elegant dinner at Capital City’s paramount eating establishment; rather affective goodbyes were said, and Dorian and Brietta departed firmly entrenched in the good graces of the Grants. They had been walking along in silence for several miles, each of the ponies milling over the events of the day in their minds.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” Dorian stated. “Clara and Edward seemed to approve of my choice of a wife.”
“You certainly made them proud when you told them that their presence at our wedding was imperative, as they would be accorded the place of your parents.”
“You don’t mind that I did that? It was a rather spur of the moment emotional response to their kindness.”
“Your time with them as a colt was brief, but there was an obvious bonding between the three of you,” Brietta reflected. “I think it was a commendable idea.” She grinned. “I’ll forever be indebted to Clara for the photo album; she’s promised to send copies of all your pictures.”
“As long as you keep them to yourself,” huffed Dorian.
“Well, I’m sure Mother will want to see what you looked like... and Anna... Shayla, too.”
“At that rate, maybe you should just publish them in the paper,” the stallion drawled sardonically.
“Now, now; don’t get all huffy.”
Brietta had just turned to send a beguiling look the stallion’s way when the bushes that lined the path erupted on either side of them as two stocky stallions burst out upon them. Before either of the unsuspecting ponies could respond, Brietta had been grabbed by one of the coarse ponies while the other had attempted an unsuccessful strike at Dorian which was retaliated upon as that stallion recovered from the shock of the attack and began a commendable defense.
Feelings of surprise and fear had engulfed Brietta, but those feelings had quickly been submerged by anger at the audacity of these ruffians; the stallion that had seized her found himself being pummeled quite effectively by the mare whom he had underrated by looks alone. Brietta was mentally congratulating herself on one well-placed kick that had seemed to incapacitate her attacker momentarily, but the brute recovered and lunged for her with such strength that she was knocked down forcefully, her breath escaping her as she hit the ground.
For some moments, Brietta was unable to respond as the villain grappled with the diamond ring on her foreleg. Then using every ounce of energy left within her, Brietta made a brave attempt to thwart his designs- and the beast suddenly slumped to the ground before her. Brietta looked up into Dorian’s face; the stallion had fought off his own attacker to come to Brietta’s aid.
“This is getting to be a habit,” gasped Brietta, having visions of Dorian’s rescue of her from Trey not so long ago.
But the look of victory that passed between Brietta and Dorian was quickly stifled as the first assailant gained his hooves and lunged once again toward Dorian.
What the outcome would have been if two of Capital City’s inhabitants returning to that city had not come upon the scene at just this time, no one would ever know. As it was, one of the new arrivals restrained the interloper who was trying to overcome Dorian while the other circumvented Dorian’s intentions to throttle the scum.
“These two attacked us!” Brietta panted, rushing to Dorian’s side as she realized that the two newcomers would not know who was responsible for the fray. But the burly aggressor who had been pulled off Dorian now escaped the hold of the rescuer; and as he pushed into the bushes and ran off through the trees, the other villain shook his head groggily and scuttled after him.
Neither of the newcomers went after them, one of them saying, “We can give the authorities a good description of those two; I see no advantage in trying to capture them ourselves.” He turned to Brietta. “Are you all right, miss?”
“I’m fine,” Brietta gasped between breaths. “Oh, but Dorian!” She rushed to him, noting the blood trickling out of a cut on his lip and an ugly bruise forming near his eye. “You’re hurt!” She tore the ribbon out of her hair and dabbed at the blood to see the extent of the injury. “We could use some water,” she snapped at the stallions who now stood watching the two.
“Brie!” Dorian said, taking the ribbon from her grasp. “I’m okay.”
“Okay?” she retorted. “You just fought off two mangy pugilists; you are not okay.”
“You handled one of them quite efficiently.” Dorian tried to smile, but the cut on his lip turned it into a grimace. “My little wildcat.” He brushed some disordered locks from Brietta’s forehead, and Brietta found that tender action too much for her.
“Oh, Dorian!” she moaned, tears beginning to fall. She leaned against him, suddenly weak. “Why would those two miscreants attack us?”
Putting his forelegs around the mare and crushing her to him, Dorian shook his head. “Your diamond, I guess,” he said dully.
“Are you saying that those two jumped you unawares?” asked the older of the two stallions who had happened upon the scuffle.
“They came out of the bushes with no warning,” Dorian admitted. “We were returning to Whitehall after a day in Capital City.”
“Had you ever seen either of them before?” queried the younger stallion.
Dorian hesitated only a moment. “No,” he said. “They were strangers.”
“Miss... what about you? Did you recognize either of the assailants?”
From her position secure in Dorian’s embrace, Brietta simply shook her head in the negative.
“I wouldn’t count much on our descriptions doing a whole lot of good,” stated Dorian, staring at his hoof. All the others centered their attention on the hoof as well and saw what Dorian meant. His hooves- and Brietta’s as well- were streaked with brown and olive green smudges. Whoever the stallions were, they had disguised themselves with body paint.
“You’ll have to fill out a report when you get back to Whitehall,” the older stallion said. “We’ll do the same with the Capital City authorities.”
Dorian for the first time took a good look at his rescuers. “Thanks for coming along when you did.” Suddenly alert, he added, “You’re Gable.” Dorian’s gaze then shifted to the second stallion.
“This is my son,” Jordan Gable responded. “Terence and I were on our way home from a town meeting at Freemont. And your name?”
“I’m Dorian Adams. And this,” Dorian indicated the mare in his forelegs, “is Brie Manning.”
Hearing her name, Brietta lifted her head and regretted the weakness she had shown. Brushing some stray tears from her cheeks, she looked with curiosity at the two ponies who had been instrumental in thwarting their attackers. What had Dorian called this distinguished looking pony? Gable?
“You’re Senator Gable!” Brietta ineptly stated. Realizing the impression her disheveled state and languishing manner must convey, she hastily stood erect and ran a hoof through her hair which caused the senator to grin.
“There aren’t many mares who could battle an aggressor and come through it looking as lovely as you do, Miss Manning,” the senator remarked. “I hope you enjoyed your time in Capital City... if not your trip home.”
“We were just commenting on what a perfect day it was,” Brietta admitted, “when those two goons jumped out of the bushes at us.” She looked at Dorian ruefully. “Dorian was doing a wonderful job at holding them off, but I must add my thanks to his for your coming to our rescue.”
“We just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Terence smiled, bowing to Brietta. “My father and I are only grateful that we came along when we did.”
“And now, my boy,” the senator said to his son, “I think we’d better escort these two on to Whitehall. I’d hate to think that their journey would encounter any more unexpected surprises.”
“For Brietta’s sake, I’d gladly accept your company,” Dorian said, a tremor cutting through him as he thought of what might have happened if they had not been able to hold off the villains.
“Do you really think that they were merely robbers waiting for an unsuspecting traveler to accost?” asked Jordan Gable as they turned their steps back down the path.
“What else could it have been?” asked Dorian evasively.
“I’m familiar with the Manning family,” Jordan replied with a glance at Brietta. “Lawyers are in a position to make enemies just as legislators do.”
“The town of Whitehall is like a big family,” Dorian bristled. “The cases we handle are of a benevolent nature.”
“But the town is growing,” Jordan reminded him. “Growth brings both good and bad elements into a setting.”
Terence and Brietta had been silent listeners to the conversation, but now Terence spoke up, addressing himself to Dorian. “You said ‘the cases we handle’. You’re a lawyer, too, then?”
Brietta answered for Dorian. “He’s with my father and grandfather’s firm, as I am.”
“I’m familiar with both Conrad and Aiden,” acknowledged Jordan. “And now I take pleasure in meeting their talented associates.”
“Sloan McClere is with the firm as well, I believe,” offered Terence with a glance at Brietta.
“Yes, he is.” Brietta saw no need to expand on that topic.
“One only hears good things about the Manning firm,” remarked Jordan. “However, that doesn’t leave out the fact that some client may hold a grudge- most likely unfounded- against one of you.”
“I don’t buy that for a second,” grunted Dorian. “The two that attacked us were vulgar low-life who simply took advantage of the situation; I should have been more alert to the circumstances.”
Terence smiled at Brietta while responding to Dorian. “In your position, I’m sure my thoughts would have been distracted by the company as well.”
Dorian threw the younger stallion a sharp look, and a menacing scowl settled over his wounded features. Hating to see Dorian under any more stress than necessary, Brietta pretended she had a problem with her backpack that only Dorian could rectify so that Terence moved up next to his father and Brietta had Dorian at her side once more.
“You’ll always be my hero,” she assured Dorian with a teasing grin.
“I’ll count on that,” he replied.
* * *
“We’re going to the hospital first!” ordered Brietta, a determined look on her face. The group had reached the town of Whitehall just after darkness fell, and Dorian was all for going straight to the police station; but Brietta had stubbornly vetoed that idea. “That cut on your face needs more attention than a Band-Aid,” she chided under the amused attention of Terence and Jordan. “Those vagabonds were dirty and mangy like rabid animals; heaven only knows what you might have been exposed to.”
Before Dorian could respond, Jordan made a suggestion. “You two go on to the hospital while Terence and I report this incident to the police here. The Capital City force owes me; I’ll make sure they’re on the case, too.” Dorian hesitated, but Jordan reassured him. “I’ll send someone over to the hospital to question you and Brietta there and save some time.”
Brietta put a restraining hoof on Jordan’s. “You and Terence are welcome to spend the night at Whitehall Place; it’s the least we can do for all your help.”
“I wouldn’t want to put you and your family out, Brietta,” Jordan assured her. “Terence and I will undoubtedly find a comfortable room at the hotel.”
“No, really, my family and I would consider it a pleasure to have you with us,” Brietta urged.
“We’ll meet you at the hospital then,” Jordan agreed and was gratified to see Brietta break into a smile.
“I really don’t need a doctor’s attention,” grumbled Dorian as he and Brietta continued on without their patrons.
“I’ll let one of the doctors tell me that,” Brietta maintained her authority. “Now, no more discussion.”
Dorian took her at her word and did not speak to her again until they were at the emergency room and found Dr. Finella on duty. Dorian could not resist the temptation and drawled smugly, “Are you satisfied? You’ve turned me over to your rival, dearest.”
“Some sacrifices are expected in life, dearest,” Brietta returned. She frostily greeted Finella as the doctor came into the room.
“My, my,” Finella clucked as her eyes raked over Dorian. “You two have a fight?”
“We did, but not with each other,” Dorian blandly responded.
Brietta moved to the door. “I’ll go and call home to warn Mother of our house guests.” She flashed a wink at Dorian before exiting, leaving the door ajar for her own peace of mind.
* * *
When Brietta returned after giving her mother a very abbreviated story of what had happened- that Jordan and Terence Gable had been on the path with her and Dorian and had been unexpectedly caught in Whitehall for the night, and that she had thought it best to extend them a welcome at Whitehall Place- she found Dr. Finella finishing up the patchwork on Dorian’s injuries; she waited patiently until Finella stepped back and pronounced Dorian as good as new- or at least she expected him to be within the next few days. Brietta crossed to his side. “You look much better with that cut cleaned up.”
“It’s your turn now, Brietta,” Dr. Finella said, patting the examining table.
“I wasn’t hurt; my antagonist was too intent on getting my ring to hit me.”
“Let me see your foreleg.”
Looking down at her ring-ornamented appendage, she saw what Finella was referring to. Around the band of the engagement ring was visible dried blood. Seeing it, Brietta realized that the dull ache in that foreleg was not entirely due to the exertion of the tussle.
Dorian was distraught. “Brie, you said you weren’t hurt! You should’ve been taken care of first!” He helped her up and watched as Finella worked the encrusted ring off Brietta’s foreleg. The gold band was covering a torn and bloody gouge that had occurred in the scuffle with the thief who had tried so hard to remove the precious ring from her.
“Why didn’t you say something?” Dorian reprimanded her.
“I didn’t know,” admitted Brietta. “Everything happened so fast, and I was worried about you.”
“That’s gotta hurt,” the stallion commiserated.
“It does now,” Brietta gasped as Finella cleaned the open wound.
When Dr. Finella had finally released both of her patients with the admonition to make an appointment for a follow-up exam, Brietta and Dorian were approached again by a local police officer who, after a quick word with Dr. Finella, escorted the two into an empty office for some questions. Both of the lawyers, having met this particular officer in court cases in the past, were less than enthusiastic to be on the receiving end of the questions this evening.
“We’ve had a report of some trouble on the route between Capital City and Whitehall; I’d like to hear your version of it.” The officer looked bored out of his skull.
Dorian glanced at Brietta who deferred to his telling the story. When he was finished, Officer Neil glanced at Brietta before returning his attention to his notes. “Anything you want to add?”
“That pretty well covers it.”
The officer’s head came up to train his piercing blue eyes on Brietta. “That pretty well covers it,” he repeated with an uninterested voice. “I expected better of you, Miss Manning.” He jotted a note on the pad in front of him before the blue eyes returned to stare at the mare. “You normally are quite hung up on the details.”
“As is Dorian, and he covered them quite accurately.”
Officer Neil studied the two ponies, alternately tapping the desk with one hoof, then rubbing the other across his chin. Finally he said, “You two didn’t have a lover’s quarrel, did you?”
Dorian’s response was lost as Brietta spat out her disgust over such an idea. “Get serious, Officer Neil!”
The cop raised a dark eyebrow but decided not to pursue that particular path any further. “Why were you set upon, do you think?” he queried now.
Surveying the dressing on her foreleg, Officer Neil asked, “One of the assailants hurt you?”
“I fought him when he tried to force the ring away from me.”
“You’d have been better off letting him have it; he and his partner would have left sooner if they got what they wanted.”
“You expect me to stand back while some brute plays rough with my fiancee?” Dorian rumbled angrily, his eyes dark and threatening.
“Did either one take anything from you?” Officer Neil directed at the stallion.
“So it’s possible that if you’d handed over the ring, neither of you would have needed medical attention tonight.”
“And it’s also possible that neither of us would be here to tell the story, isn’t it?”
“You both concur that you’d never seen either one of the assailants before?”
“They were wearing camo paint,” patiently repeated Dorian.
“As Dorian told you a minute ago,” added Brietta.
Closing his notebook with a snap, Officer Neil stood up. “We’ll check your story out, but I wouldn’t count on seeing either of those thugs in custody; they’ve probably disappeared into some hole somewhere by now.” His blue gaze settled disturbingly on Dorian. “You would understand that.”
“Now listen here!” Brietta was on her hooves in an instant to defend Dorian. “You’ve no right...”
Officer Neil held up his hoof. “We’ll contact you if we need any further information. Good night.” He was gone.
“He’s no better than a low-down common...” Brietta began in a low, dangerous voice.
“Brie, settle down,” Dorian reprimanded. “He enjoys playing the tough guy.” His voice grew softer as he held out a hoof to her. “Let’s get you home.”
The tension suddenly slipped from Brietta, and she realized how tired she was. “Yes. You’re right. Let’s put this terrible episode behind us and get back to living.”
* * *
They found Jordan and Terence waiting for them, and together the four ponies walked through the darkened night to Whitehall Place where the senator and his son were warmly greeted; and Dorian was drawn into Anna’s protective guardianship and Lena’s motherly attention.
Dorian quickly dispelled this pampering, however, by informing them that Brietta herself had been the target of some harmful activity; Brietta’s family listened in astonishment and trepidation as they were told the true story of the preceding hours. All their combined care and concern were showered on both Brietta and Dorian now, and their gratitude for a timely rescue was Terence and Jordan’s lot until Brietta pleaded with them to put the affair behind them as a way for the participants to forget the frightening experience as soon as possible.
When Aiden and Conrad retired to the library with Jordan and Terence for some political conversation and Lena had been refused her invitation for Dorian to spend the night in one of the guest rooms, Dorian and Brietta finally had a quiet moment alone.
“I was so scared, Brie, to think that those stallions might hurt you,” Dorian confessed as she walked him to the door. “I’d never have been able to forgive myself if anything happened to you, especially due to my inability to protect you.”
“You did very well on that count,” Brietta smiled at him. “No one could’ve been anticipating that we’d be attacked on a well-traveled path like we were. We’re a civilized country, you know.”
“Oh, Brie!” He hugged her to him. “I never want to feel that helpless again.”
“Why won’t you stay the night? I’d feel better knowing we were under the same roof.”
“I need some time to think and sort things out; a walk in the fresh air will give me a chance to do that without distraction.” He grinned at her. “And I do love you to distraction, my wildcat.”
Brietta studied his cut lip, then lifted her eyes to meet his and asked demurely, “A kiss is out of the question, I suppose?”
“You think I’d let a little thing like this stop me?” he whispered.
Brietta was kissed; and then she watched as her love left through the encroaching darkness, whispering a prayer to guide him on his way.
* * *
Aiden and Jordan were the last to seek their beds; but before they parted, Jordan set a restraining hoof on Aiden’s shoulder. “How much to you know about Dorian?” he asked.
Aiden’s eyes searched the senator’s. “He’s been honest with Brietta about his past, if that’s what you’re asking,” he coolly responded.
“I don’t want you to take this amiss, Aiden, but I feel a warning is necessary. Dorian has come a long way since he was a colt on the streets, but never forget that he was once very much like those rogues who attacked him and your daughter tonight.”
“Since we’ve known Dorian, he’s never given us a reason to doubt his capabilities or his intentions,” stated Aiden. He hoped to relieve Jordan’s misapprehension, but he saw that the worry remained in the senator’s eyes. Aiden sighed. “I’ll keep your warning in mind, however; Brietta means the world to me, and I’d never knowingly allow her to be hurt... not by anyone.”
“That’s all I ask, Aiden.” Jordan patted the stallion on the shoulder and left him.
* * *
It was a pleasant walk, Brietta decided, with Dorian at her side after their enjoyable day in Capital City. The weather was perfect, and she and Dorian were in such compatible conversation that she hoped their time together would go on forever.
She was teasing the stallion about his serious demeanor captured in Clara’s picture of him when the shrubbery exploded as two disgusting bodies burst out to accost them. Over Brietta’s terrified scream, she just barely heard the voice of the ruffian who stood menacingly in front of Dorian.
“Dorian, ol’ friend,” the stallion had sneered just before Dorian’s hoof found his face.
Brietta yelped in terror as she woke from her nightmare. “Dorian!” she said out loud into the empty room that was just beginning to lighten with the dawn of a new August day. “He knew you!”
Brietta swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up, a feeling of urgency about her. But as her hooves hit the floor, the vision of her recent dream faded and dissolved into unrecognizable fragments. She shook her head and crawled back under the covers and dropped off to sleep in an instant.